8 minutes and 29 seconds. That’s the amount of time it took Liverpool to take the game away from Pep Guardiola’s Man City team in the second half to eventually secure a 4-3 victory.
It was talked up as one of the most exciting games of the season with the two best attacking teams in the Premier League. Aguero, Sane and Sterling against Firmino, Mane and Salah. There’s been a tendency in recent years for these games to become cagey affairs with both teams focused on not losing rather than winning. Not this year. This year we’ve been treated to some incredible games of football between the top 6 sides and this was arguably the pick of the bunch.
Prior to the game, in 1stforfootball’s match preview, it had been said that if any team were to stop Man City going the season unbeaten it was Liverpool. Any drop in quality from City and Liverpool’s high pressing game would punish them and they did.
City weren’t themselves from the start, they tried to keep the ball and impose their dominance on the game but Liverpool were too quick. It took just 9 minutes for the breakthrough. Roberto Firmino pinched the ball back, as he so often does and the ball broke to Oxlade-Chamberlain. His first touch took him forward into space, inviting him to drive at the City defence. It was an opportunity he may not have had the confidence to take at Arsenal but in front of The Kop he looked right at home. His low shot from the edge of the box flew past Ederson into the bottom corner.
The next 25 minutes was much of the same. City trying to pass out the back, Liverpool pressing them with an intensity that Pep’s men could not match. Salah and Mane both had chances but were unable to find a second for Jurgen Klopp.
Over the last 5 years attacking has not been Liverpool’s problem and their shakey defence has often been the topic of conversation so when Leroy Sane made it 1-1 just before half time the Anfield faithful would have feared the worst. Joe Gomez has been excellent this year but Sane beat him too easily and Karius didn’t cover himself in glory as the shot flew in at his near post.
Another day City may have taken control and won this game but Liverpool were too good and on the hour mark the game changed. Firmino was played through by Chamberlain closely tracked by John Stones. The Brazilian used incredible strength to brush off the centre back before showing unbelievable composure to lift the ball over the head of Ederson and off the post into the net. It was the most technically brilliant finish you will see this season.
30 seconds later Liverpool’s press paid off again. Mane drove at the centre of the City defence and curled one onto the post. He deserved to score but just a minute later he did. Salah shrugged off the attention of the City defence and played it across the box to Mane. His left-footed strike could not have been stopped. It was inch perfect and it was 3-1.
Not to be overshadowed by his team mates, Salah joined the party. A uncharacteristically poor kick from the onrushing Ederson fell straight to Salah. His touch was immaculate and his finish from 45 yards into the open was even better.
City continued to press and Bernardo Silva’s tidy finish gave them hope in the 84th minute. Gundogan’s chest and toe poke from the centre of the box in the 1st minute of added time made for a nervy finish and when Aguero headed towards goal in the 94th minute, half of Anfield held their breath unsure if it was now 4-4. Aguero was offside and his header had hit the side netting and as the chance went begging, so did Man City’s unbeaten streak.
City are still a distance ahead and should still wrap up the league title early. For them it was a small mark in an otherwise flawless season but for Liverpool it was a statement. A sign that Coutinho’s departure may not mean all is lost and that this Liverpool team with the addition of Virgil Van Dijk, just might be able to start challenging with the best again.